Found this interesting article and it has some great points regarding music and singing. How in many churches this has changed and the challenges today with technology, rock band driven music and even singablity.
Just sharing and interested in thoughts/discussion
The challenge to keep the music/singing alive and people engaged
I can't honestly remember if we've discussed thatb one here or I saw it somewhere else. The core theme is really: "What has occurred could be summed up as the re-professionalization of church music and the loss of a key goal of worship leading – enabling the people to sing their praises to God"
Worth remembering that for some people, church as theatre and everything done to the highest, most professional standards possible is what seems like the ONLY right way, and anything else is sloppy and dishonouring. I don't agree with that thinking, but having been part of a tradition for 6 years that I once firmly labelled 'dead' has made me understand real Christians can do things differently.
But there are some good pointers to help us enable the people of God in worship and aid participation.
Alicia, the article is good.
It is easy for a worship leader to get frustrated while participating in the congregation as another person leads the worship. We all have our boxes to tick off, such as song choice, participation etc.
For me, the role of worship leader is to grab the attention of the congregation. To take them from what ever they have left from the week, some have been made redundant, some have marriage issues, some have lost a loved one, some are struggling with teenagers, some don't have relationship with Our Father apart from service on Sunday…. to take this group of individuals, who turn up on a Sunday & become a congregation…. from their week, into the presence of God.
The task is not easy & a worship leader, in my opinion must have a God given love for the people.
Often a worship leader will say from the platform, sometimes frustrated, "this is not a concert, we want you to join in.. blah blah"
If a worship leader approaches the task of leading all these people by first just reminding them who Our Father in Heaven is with song choice, then gently taking them all on a journey, from what ever point they are in their walk with God, to just remind them of who God is. If that be the focus, then worship will come.
Praise songs = Songs about God
Worship songs = Song to God.
This simple formula, whether using the latest songs or traditional hymns will inspire a people from different backgrounds & circumstances to a place where God can inhabit.
I don't think their should be any rules as far as, not too many new songs etc, I think a worship leader, who has a heart for the people, can inspire their people to worship.
For me, I can sit in the congregation 1 week & not be moved then the following week, the songs choice will inspire me to worship.
Some worship leaders can loose focus a bit, by mixing up too many messages. Meaning, they will include a ministry, testimonial, inspirational, evangelical all in the mix of worship. For me, once they can grasp the idea of a song, then they can become more effective on where to use it. Worship being to God & not about me.
I would encourage worship leaders to keep being inspired with new songs, to keep being reminded of the task & what the calling of worship leader is all about.
The 1 reason why people don't participate in worship:
The worship leader has forgotten the task, to Love the people, to take them from where they are & remind them of who God is.
Below is the (long) response I posted to the blog's comment section... I keep seeing this post pop up, and I think some people are being a little mislead with the new popularity of this sort of blanketing... Anyway...
So, I’ve seen different variations of this blog post over the past several months, and I guess I’m ready to stop ignoring it. I’m a full-time worship pastor, so a lot of FB friends or concerned members will forward me the article in a confused “I read this, so it must be true… but… what?” kind of way. They’re confused because it is in direct contrast to the experience we have every week at church. I don’t have any doubt that there are churches who are having a lot of trouble with passionate worship, and lack of participating congregants. I do, however; think that the “9 reasons” are a naive and extremely broad diagnosis for the modern Church’s passivity in general. I can say this confidently, as our church sings… and we sing loud.
So, I thought I would take a little time to share my opinions… That is all they are. I’ll say, before I start, that I do agree with some of the actual bullet points to a… point. Some of the beef I have with the article is the apparent… almost (dare I say) arrogance that some seem to have found in using a personal and touchy, trending topic to steer people who don’t know any better than to listen to only one point of view…. Ok… Here we go…
1. They don’t know the songs?
If this is true then you may be leading too many songs… Not too many “new” songs. A consistent flow of new songs is a great way to bring fresh acclimation and adoration to God. What I mean is too many in a single service. If you only have enough time allotted for your music to sing 4 or 5 songs “as recorded”, then cut one or 2 of them, and take some actual time to teach and learn the new ones. For us, 3 is a great number. A new song is not always included in our set, but when it is… We spend about twice as much time digging into it… By the middle of that song, it is almost always sung the most passionately. The following week, we sing it again as a part of the set… They know it fairly well, and we only extend it if it needs it. After 3 weeks, it is a part of our catalog, and we’re most likely already teaching another one. It’s exciting.
The other problem that could be happening is that you don’t have the talent on stage to help create an atmosphere of worship. That may sound harsh or fake and plastic, but it’s very true. If ANY of you went to, say, a leadership conference and the worship was lead by a tone-deaf screacher, then a distraction-factor has been established. This can (and will) cause every new song (and old one) to transform into something to tolerate for 5 minutes instead of something to help them engage in communication with their Savior.
2. We are singing songs not suitable for congregational singing?
I agree with this one. If you are singing a top 40 radio hit, then they will bob their head, and may even recognize them, but some of those songs are just difficult to follow. We rarely choose songs that aren’t “all-skate”, and when we do… it’s purposeful.
3. We are singing in keys too high for the average singer?
This one actually makes me laugh.
There’s usually a good reason that songs a recorded in the chosen keys… Because the singer is able to achieve “excellence” in that key.
I heard a joke once that went something like “3/4 of a worship leader’s time during the week is spent on changing keys in Chris Tomlin songs.” That’s funny because, of course, Chris Tomlin has a high range, and worship leaders believe that this is why people don’t sing when they lead his songs(it’s not, by the way) Chris not only has a girly, high tenor voice, he is also one of the most effective worship leaders of the modern era. He doesn’t change his songs to more manageable keys when he leads, and we all sing loud.
Phil Whickham not only has a girly, high tenor voice, he is also one of the most effective worship leaders of the modern era. He doesn’t change his songs to more manageable keys when he leads, and we all sing loud.
Lincoln Brewster not only has a girly, high tenor voice, he is also one of the most effective worship leaders of the modern era. He doesn’t change his songs to more manageable keys when he leads, and we all sing loud.
There are so many more… I think there is a pattern here…
In my opinion, the only time you should change the key of a song to be more manageable is when the leader of the song has a hard time singing it. If someone from the stage can’t reach a note, then that whole “distraction factor” has come back into play. In the same way… If a leader has a natural high range, and changing to a lower key steals his “umph”, then the potential moment has been robbed of excellence… (distraction).
I will often tell people to sing, and sing loud… I have even called out friends in the congregation from time to time to say… “See, Eric is singing, and he can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Church… it’s not about you harmonizing with your neighbor, or hitting every note perfectly. It’s about you pouring your heart out to your Savior, and He tells us that it is a sweet, sweet sound in His ear. This may be the only place you ever hear that said about your singing, so take advantage… Eric knows what I’m saying. Now, let’s sing together, and lift up our God!” Their inability to sing well has become a teaching point, and a new comfort level has been established and even encouraged.
4. The congregation can’t hear people around them singing.
Good! I’m not singing to them. By the way, most people don’t want the person next to them to hear them… That actually keeps them from singing. I’ve had more than a big handful of people tell me that they love that they can come together with the Church and sing with abandon to God because they didn’t feel like they could at their last church… The music is powerful, and only God can hear them. I remember growing up in a very traditional church, and there was always that one guy who sang 10 times as loud as everyone else (usually in some operetic-esque manner). I would giggle, my mom would shush me, and then giggle a little herself. (distractions) There is no perfect volume, and I’ve come to understand that “too loud” means different things to different people. Sometimes volume can be distracting when it’s low, and sometimes when it’s high. We’ve managed to dial in the right levels that seem to set the right environment for our congregation… 88 to 93db for us.
5. We have created worship services which are spectator events, building a performance environment?
Musicians are performers. They use their talents as worship. Guitar solos are worship. Fiddles and drums and harmonicas and mimes are too. (yes… mimes). A sound man who makes it sound incredible is worshiping. The guy who takes pride in creating a visual environment with lights and smoke does it for God, and he is worshiping. The person communicating the message is worshiping too, and he took lots of time to make his (or her) points relate in a way that is relevant… There is a true art to that as well, and he is not only worshiping he is also performing. When we complain about it being a performance environment, we’ve missed the point entirely… It’s not about making it all about performances and the experience. It’s about making every experience and performance about God. If we’re afraid to do our best and shine where God has blessed us, then I would say we’re not truly worshiping to begin with.
6. The congregation feels they are not expected to sing?
I agree. You are the lead worshiper, so lead by example, and invite, invite, invite… lead, lead, lead.
7. We fail to have a common body of hymnody?
I view this with having about as much sincerity as the “book of common prayer”. I realize that liturgical practice can have profound meaning, and deep emotional response at times (usually when used to emphasize a point, not to BE the point). It’s just that it steals away creativity and relational value, and adds religiosity and confined structure. Church isn’t about having fun, but it certainly isn’t about celebrating our boredom with contrived tools that we’ve developed to make sure things become more predictable.
8. Worship leaders ad lib too much.
These really aren’t 9 different points. This is kind of like a sub-point. It could’ve been included in a couple others… I digress.
I agree… If they are ad libbing.
But where in the world have you been going to churches who consistently do this enough for it to make your top 9? I may have heard one worship leader ever who thought he was on American Idol. I just don’t see this as being that relevant. I could be wrong though.
9. Worship leaders are not connecting with the congregation?
YES! This, in my opinion, should be the entirety of your post. Number nine. This is the biggest problem. A worship LEADER shouldn’t be leading if they don’t know how to lead. Engaging is a giant part of that. Points 1 though 8 could all fit inside this one issue. Get rid of your charts on stage… If you can’t play without them, don’t lead until you can (harsh?) Talk to the congregation. Teach the songs. Plan your transitions well. If you raise your game and realize that you are performing for HIM, and teaching others to do the same, then true worship will happen (even with a lot of new songs) I promise.
good reply Scott.
Scott, the church we were part of for around 6 years until recently really struggled with getting people to actively participate in worship. Without being long winded, it seemed to be because worship was expected to be a consumer experience like listening to a CD, rather than a corporate process in which everyone had a part to play. That was the culture when we arrived, partly created through use of CDs instead of live worship initially, partly through a failure to teach people corporate responsibility for this area - worship was something you were encouraged to enjoy, rather than offer sacrificially with everyone else.
Toward the end of our time there a change of leadership, re-introduction of live worship and an altered congregational balance was starting to see a change in attitude and practice.
I can see how music sung to tracks or CDs could be a big distraction. I would probably have a hard time engaging as well.
My main issue with the article above (and articles like it) is that they tend to focus on real symptoms, but then prescribe an elixir that doesn't work for everyone. Reading articles like this could be akin to trying to diagnose your sickness on WebMD. It may tell you you have Hibola when a real doctor would tell you it's just a cold. The doctor costs more, takes more time and investment, but in the end you're feeling better.
All I'm saying is that the church needs leadership ("doctors"). We may all have churches who have a "sickness", but don't tell me why that is until you've listened to my lungs when I cough. Every church is different, but we all have one goal. Reaching that goal for all of us starts with investing in good leadership to help steer us in the right direction. God works through leaders who are humble enough to do what will work to reach excellence.
I promise that if I added "hymnody" elements to our worship experience, people would only be distracted and confused. So, I diagnose what DOES work for those who God has called us to reach and engage... And we go with it.
Anyway... I'll stop my rant now. God bless!
No worries about the rant - worn that T shirt and seen that film often enough too. I was just trying to give an example of a real church that really didn't sing readily.
Churches do need leadership, but sometimes the leaders are the cause of the problem, either through faulty diagnosis or through prescribing something they want you to take for their own reasons. Hopefully articles like that will help people think about how their people respond to the worship opportunities they are being given, and how creating the 'bestest, most polished' worship experience' isn't necessarily going to actually be helpful.
Worth pointing out that CD tracks *can* be easy to worship with for a congregation that prefers worship-as-a-gig, and even for those of us who expect to participate instead they can be good, depending on music selection. When I did use CDs, it was from live recordings as much as possible, and from large church meetings, rather than worship rock bands that were giving a show. The idea was to create as near as possible an opportunity for people to respond somewhat interactively, maybe sing in tongues or pray out in quiet passages. Pre-recorded music is tyrannical to free worship, but it's possible to somewhat reduce the tyranny.
BTW: Ebola ;-)
I think using the live recordings rather than some canned thing is very good. Even singing from a hymnbook, with hymns selected by the leader, is a benevolent tyranny (the only time we actually get in line with James 5:33 - "is anyone happy? let him sing songs!" is in the old-fashioned "Singspiration", where you shout out a number, and everyone sings a verse or two, and then someone shouts out another number). [does such a thing exist in the UK, or is it only an aberration of crazy Westerners obsessed with individuality? - I'm curious!]
Sorry not to answer this - in this church people would sometimes start songs from the floor during a gap in the music. We'd normally just pick them up & finish the verse or chorus in the key started before trying to change (if needed) and continue until the song was mined out. Not quite singspiration, but not too far off either.
I had no idea such spontaneous expressions still existed in this increasingly formal world of worship. Absolutely wonderful! You're bringing me back to a time we were all worshiping God in the Spirit, and in the back of the church a young lady named Celina began to sing, freely, and it was heavenly beautiful. She was a lot better singing that way than in front of a microphone -- must have been built for your type of church!
By the way, most people don’t want the person next to them to hear them… That actually keeps them from singing.
Bingo. I think the less you think others can hear you, the louder you can sing, and that sort of leads to being more engaged.
By the way, that guy who sang 10 times as loud, he went to my church too.
I agree very much on your emphasis on Point Number Nine -- that leading is leading. A lot of times we say a person is a "natural-born leader"; but leading is also a learned ability, and it is a God-encouraged ability, so it behooves us (1st time I've ever used that word) to try to be better leaders, to be Picards -- and "engage."
I took conducting in college. The class was useless, except for one thing the prof said: "memorize your score." To memorize an orchestra score when I didn't even know how to read transposing parts -- that seemed ridiculously impossible, and he didn't make us memorize anything for the final, except a nice beat pattern. So I never really took up on that marvelous word -- and too often function as a slave to a score. When I do break free, sometimes I crash! (I forget the words) But more often, good things begin to happen in the congregation as i can see their faces and connect.
I still have mixed feelings about the keys. I have mixed feelings about lots of aspects of singing, such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer telling altos not to sing harmony because it disrupts the glorious unison singing that is the hallmark of a united Body. Yet, de facto, the unison (or the triple-octave) is becoming the standard for congregational singing, just own its own, through the power of the recordings. A lot to consider these days:)